Some artists are considered so popular that they are known for their work more than their names. Even if you’re not an art buff, you’ve probably heard of Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh, who are some of the most famous artists in history. One way to get to know the work of art masters is to watch a documentary about them.

The life of an artist is different from that of the average person in more ways than is obvious. For instance, the humdrum of everyday routine is replaced with a whirlwind of creativity, with some days or even weeks passing without the artist leaving their studio. You’ll also learn about the people behind the brushstrokes and learn the lives they led.

So, how does an artist go about juggling the demands of family life with the demands of their art?

Knowing Them in a More Personal Way

Art documentaries may seem to be a niche in the world of film, but they are a genre that is growing year by year, as more and more people are going to see some of the greatest art museums in the world, in cities like New York, London, Vienna, and Paris.

A lot of people think that art documentaries are only shown in art galleries, and while this may be true, it is not the only place they can be found. One of the first documentaries to cover the subject was called “Painting the Modern Garden” and was produced in 1969. It featured interviews with some of the most famous artists of the time, including Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Several art documentaries have been released over the years, but many seem to focus only on artists and not the art itself. Fortunately, there are several documentaries available that do a wonderful job of showcasing art and the artists who create it. Here are some of the best art documentaries, perfect for art lovers and aspiring artists alike.

  1. The Cool School – Is a 2008 documentary film about the art school at the California Institute of the Arts, directed by Doug Pray and produced by Tom Dolby. It documents the school’s early years, its struggle for identity, and its role in creating the art and culture of Los Angeles and southern California. The film features interviews with John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Judy Chicago, Jackie Frank, Elizabeth Murray, and other figures from the school’s history, as well as with artists and art students at CalArts in the early 2000s.
  2. Jean-Michel Basquiat – The Radiant Child – is a captivating documentary about the rise and fall of the artist who came to prominence in the 1980s. The film, which uses a blend of first-hand accounts and archival footage, features many people who knew Basquiat when he was alive, including his fellow artists, dealers, gallery assistants, and critics. Through these interviews, the director attempts to piece together what made Basquiat’s art unique and daring.
  3. Le mystère Picasso – An art documentary from 1956, titled “Le mystère Picasso” and featuring an interview with Pablo Picasso himself. In this documentary, Picasso reveals a new artwork per minute, which is shown in rapid succession, giving a fast overview of his work. Other topics covered are his childhood, his time in Paris, his relationship with his wife, and his inspirations.
  4. National Gallery – This documentary art is about how the National Gallery is one of the most visited museums in the world. With over 6 million visitors per year, it is consistently ranked as one of the top twenty most-visited art museums in the world. It sprawls over 1,600 feet, with 13.6 million square feet of interior space. (The museum has a total area of 21,000 square feet.) It is home to many of the most famous paintings in the world, including works by Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Vermeer.
  5. Tim’s Vermeer – Intrigued by the idea of an art forger who can fool experts, New York-based filmmaker Teller, set out to unravel the mystery of Johannes Vermeer’s painting, and in the process, discovered secrets to producing paintings that were strikingly similar to the Dutch artist’s—secrets that are revealed in his new documentary, Tim’s Vermeer.

Art documentaries are a great way to learn more about the artists and their work in a more personal way than you would from just looking at some pieces in a museum or gallery. They give you a chance to see the artist in action and hear them talk about what they do and why they do it.